Triangle hospitals rate high in patient satisfaction

Triangle hospitals received some of the state’s high patient-satisfaction ratings in a new consumer-friendly five-star rating system issued Thursday by Medicare.

The new performance ratings represent the federal government’s attempt to turn patients into informed health-care shoppers as insurance companies attempt to keep down costs by limiting their coverage networks to certain providers.

But Medicare also warned not to rely exclusively on its patient-satisfaction ratings because they may not paint a complete picture of hospital care. In other words, hospitals with a poor bedside manner might perform better in more critical areas, such as controlling infections, complications and readmissions.

The N.C. Hospital Association also advised patients not to treat the new ratings as an infallible measure.

“There are many reports and rankings of hospital performance out there that use different quality measures, performance data and methodologies to calculate scores,” said Julie Henry, the association’s spokeswoman. “As such, hospital performance may vary from one to another. In addition, not all measures apply to all patients.”

The Triangle is home to one of only three North Carolina hospitals that received the top rating of five stars – N.C. Specialty Hospital in Durham, a surgery facility with just 18 licensed beds.

Nationwide, only 7 percent of hospitals merited five stars, typically small specialty hospitals, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News, an independent news service.

Most general hospitals in the Triangle earned four stars, including WakeMed Health & Hospitals’ flagship hospital in Raleigh and Duke Health Raleigh Hospital. Only two – WakeMed Cary and Duke Regional in Durham – received three stars.

Medicare awarded three stars to some of the nation’s most esteemed hospital systems, such as several Mayo Clinic facilities, Kaiser Health News noted.

Some hospital officials here said the new ratings are simplistic.

“There are a wide range of ranking and rating tools available, and consumers shouldn’t rely on a single source when making important health care decisions,” UNC Health Care said in a statement.

UNC facilities fared well under Medicare’s ratings, each receiving four stars: UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and Rex Healthcare in Raleigh.

Six North Carolina hospitals got two stars, including four facilities owned by Winston-Salem-based Novant Health; no hospital in the state got one star.

Nationwide, 3 percent of hospitals got a single star, according to Kaiser Health News.

The star ratings compare hospitals to each other on a curve and are based on 11 measures of patient experience, such as communication by nurses and doctors, staff responsiveness, pain management, cleanliness and quietness.

The survey is administered to a random sample of patients between two days and six weeks after discharge. In all, 3,553 hospitals were rated by patients who were admitted between July 2013 and July 2014.

In North Carolina, five stars were also assigned to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst and Chatham Hospital in Siler City.

Murawski: 919-829-8932